2 Photos Bear Witness to Defiance in the Face of Fascism: San Pedro de Cardeña, Burgos, Then and Now

December 1, 2018
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The National Library in Madrid has recently digitized over 100 photographs taken at San Pedro de Cardeña, the concentration camp for the International Brigade prisoners which the fascists established at the site of an abandoned monastery in Burgos.

Campo de concentración de San Pedro de Cardeña, Burgos Prisioneros republicanos de las Brigadas Internacionales. Biblioteca Nacional de España. CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

Campo de concentración de San Pedro de Cardeña, Burgos Prisioneros republicanos de las Brigadas Internacionales. Biblioteca Nacional de España. CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0

This startling photograph was taken during  April 1938, inside San Pedro, shortly following the fascist capture of the International Brigade prisoners.  At this juncture, it is likely they would not yet have known whether they were facing execution.  The third prisoner from the left is George Delich, who would go on to become a WWII OSS liaison to the Yugoslavian Partisans.  Thanks to Ray Hoff for assisting in his identification.  Behind him is Carl Geiser, who chronicled the history of the Lincolns at San Pedro in “The Prisoners of the Good Fight”, and was the highest ranking Lincoln officer in the camp.  My father, Hy Wallach, standing to the right of Delich and in front of Geiser, would become one of the editors of the “The Jaily News”, the underground newspaper published by the prisoners in the concentration camp.  The African American prisoner on the left side is Claude Pringle, a veteran of the Bellaire,  Ohio coal miners strike of 1922 who was wounded at Teruel.

On a personal note, this is the only photo I have seen of my father that was taken during the Spanish Civil War.  Upon first glance, it was initially disturbing, but I have come to be proud of how defiantly he faced the fascist cameraman.

A testimony to the Lincolns’ resistance to fascism would reappear in this very same spot 75 years later, when this tribute to the IB was put up on the grounds of San Pedro, following a commemoration which took place in spite of many obstacles put in its’ way by the municipal and religious authorities at Burgos and San Pedro.  The artist, Flaco, a young primary school teacher, told me he was inspired by learning about Oliver Law.  Law was the first African American commander of a racially integrated unit, at the time in which the official United States Army was still segregated. Flaco enlarged and reproduced photos of Hy Wallach and Claude Pringle to symbolize the anti-racist and anti-fascist solidarity of the Lincoln Battalion.  Like many of the Spaniards at that rally, he expressed great gratitude and esteem for the International Brigades, as he hastily put up this billboard tribute following the heavily police surveilled ceremony.

As these two photos, more than 75 years apart demonstrate, La Lucha Continúa, and the Lincolns are a part of it!

San_Pedro

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